MM Alam, an employer at Mohammadi Silk House at the well-known Benarasi Palli in the capital, was aimlessly chatting with other salespersons of the shop. Any other year around this time they would hardly have time to breathe, facing an onrush of customers before the Eid-ul-Fitr.
“You can see the situation for yourself,” he told this correspondent on 1 June. “There are no customers.”
Forkan Ahmed Pappu, salesman of Roop Mohini, said, “We sold saris and other apparels of Tk 300,000 on an average every day around this time in 2017 but this year it is around Tk 100,000.”
Alam blamed exodus of shoppers from Bangladesh, thanks to easy tourist visa for neighbouring India, issued one or two months ahead of the Eid, for this dearth of customers at local shops.
“We’ve heard the hotels in Kolkata in India are overflowing with Bangladeshis,” MM Alam said adding that nowadays it has become easy to get an Indian visa with at least one-year validity. More people now go to India ahead of Eid, he observed. The number of Bangladeshis travelling to India ahead of Eid may exceed 100,000, he said.
Salespersons of a number of shops of the Benarasi Palli like Roop Mohini, Mohammadi Silk House-2, and Borobazar said the same when this correspondent went to visit this popular hub of local brands of katan, benarasi, chiffon and other finer types of saris.
The businessmen alleged that many Bangladeshis go to visit India as tourists bring back much more saris and other clothes than they are legally allowed, without paying duty, thanks to a section of corrupt officials.
“The government must take measures to save local businesses. We are paying duty, doing business legally but if this happens, what can we do?” Alam asked anxiously.
The businessmen said the shop owners will pay them their salaries and Eid bonuses only after selling saris.
“They [shop owners] will not pay our salaries and bonuses from their own pockets. The government must take measures to save us. Its responsibility is not to public service holders alone,” Borobazar salesperson Md Abdur Rahim pointed out.
Benarasi Palli is not the only market in this condition. It is the same in Gausia and other markets in the city, Md Abdur Rahim said.
The shopkeepers also blamed local authorities for plunging Benarasi Pall in dire straits.
“The City Corporation is not allowing us to place signboards along the three roads leading to the Benarasi Palli. They said hanging such boards will hamper the construction work of Metrorail project,” a shopkeeper said wishing not to disclose his name.
“How will the people know the area if they don’t see any signboards?” he asked.